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GOP Presidential Hopefuls Once Critical Of Ethanol Mandate Now Praise It

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Republican presidential hopefuls once opposed to ethanol blending in the U.S. fuel supply are now supporting it as they campaign in Iowa.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker were once critical of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires ever-increasing amounts of ethanol be blended into the fuel supply — that is, until the two candidates started campaigning in Iowa.

“But I do believe—and we’ve talked about this before—it’s an access issue, and so it’s something I’m willing to go forward on continuing the Renewable Fuel Standard and pressing the EPA to make sure there’s certainty in terms of the blend levels set,” Walker told a gathering of hundreds of farmers in Iowa on Sunday.

This stands in stark contrast to comments he made in 2006, when then-candidate Walker told The Daily Reporter, “I do not support the mandate, I do not have a problem with ethanol.”

“Currently, we have a problem with big government in Madison,” Walker said in 2006. “On principle, I cannot support this proposal.”

Perry had a similar change of mind about ethanol last weekend, saying he would oppose pulling the ethanol mandate, while leaving tax breaks for oil companies.

“I don’t think you pull the RFS out and discriminate against the RFS and leave all these other subsidies,” Perry told an audience of Iowa farmers, in a reversal of his vocal opposition to the ethanol mandate in 2011.

While governor, Perry asked the Obama administration for an RFS waiver, saying “it had a negative economic impact” on Texas, reported The Wall Street Journal.

Iowa is a major corn-producing state, and most ethanol in the U.S. is made from corn. In fact, nearly half of Iowa’s corn supply goes into ethanol production. Supporters say ethanol helps increase U.S. energy independence and provides consumers a fuel choice at the pump. Regardless, thousands of Iowans are employed because of the federal ethanol mandate.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad told The Wall Street Journal that “it’s doubtful” any candidate who opposed the RFS could win the Iowa caucus.

Republican hopefuls New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee both came out in full support for the RFS.

Not all Republican presidential hopefuls in Iowa voiced support for the ethanol mandate. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and former New York Gov. George Pataki supported ending the RFS.

“The answer you’d like me to give is, ‘I’m for the RFS.’ Darn it, that would be the easy thing to do,” Cruz told Iowans. “But I tell you, people are pretty fed up, I think, with politicians that run around and tell one group one thing and tell another group another thing.”

“The markets are ultimately going to have to decide this,” Bush told the audience. “Whether that’s 2022 or sometime in the future I don’t know.”

Walker, however, did say he was in favor of eventually phasing out the RFS when biofuels no longer need subsidies to remain economically viable.

“Now, long-term—we’ve talked about this before as well—my goal would be to get to a point where we directly address those market access issues and I think that’s a part of the challenge,” Walker added as a caveat. “That’s ultimately the best way, to let the market decide, but right now we don’t have a free and open marketplace. So that’s why I’m willing to take that position.”

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